Romancing SaGa for the PS2, which was given the subtitle Minstrel Song in its Japanese release, is a slightly expanded remake of the original Romancing SaGa for the SNES, a game that never was released outside of Japan. Had its predecessor been given a chance in the West, this title may very well have been welcomed as a dream remake the likes of which Final Fantasy fans beg for. Instead, this was the SaGa game put in the unenviable position of being the follow-up to the miserably disappointing Unlimited Saga. When this game was first released, even I, a dedicated SaGa fan, passed on it. Years later, I came to learn that I had made a terrible mistake.

Of course, Romancing SaGa also suffers from some other issues. It is far from being one of the best-looking RPGs on the PS2, and like most SaGa games it can seem very unfocused and does an absolutely terrible job of explaining its core mechanics. Beneath these surface-level flaws, though, is a magnificent game. It has deep, complex mechanics that let you build your party in a myriad of ways, a great battle system that balances flashy, exciting attacks with excellent resource management, and a good amount of challenge. It also features surprisingly competent, if sometimes unintentionally hilarious, voice acting and more adrenaline-pumping battle music than any one RPG has any right to have.

One of the nicest things about Romancing SaGa is that it gives the player a great degree of freedom to explore, and unlike many other RPGs it gives the player the freedom to fail. Half the continent can be reduced to a dung heap if the player doesn't actively chase down every available quest, but even a player who is very familiar with the game might find it difficult to complete even half of the quests in a single playthrough, and doing everything in a single playthrough is simply impossible. It can be brutal and even a little unfair, but it makes every triumph that much more enjoyable. With three endings, eight main characters to choose from, and a rather unique New Game+ mode, Romacing SaGa gives a lot of replay value and, despite some of its flaws, is quite fun.

Nathan Schlothan

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